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How to Overcome Your Mistakes

The Psychology of Failure

By Ndeloh Desmond Published 5 months ago 3 min read
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How to Overcome Your Mistakes
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

In a 2021 research, nearly 400 people were recruited to learn a mystery, fictional language. Individuals were questioned about three pairs of runes— for example, which of these two characters symbolizes an animal?

Then, after a little pause, students were questioned about the identical rune pairings with questions inverted, as in, which of these two runes denotes a non-living object? But this game retained a secret— The subjects’ replies in round one dictated the runes’ readings in round two.

In the first round, competitors either had all of their responses recorded as right no matter what, or they had no choice but to fail every question. This meant that during the break, every player got the same amount of knowledge, and in round two they began playing for real.

But despite this fair playing field, the successful players from round one soared to the top of the rankings, while those branded as failures continued, well, failing. People frequently view failure as a learning moment— a necessary misstep on our journey to development.

But learning from our errors isn't always simple, particularly when those failures are disheartening, overpowering, or just simply baffling. So what hinders us from converting our errors into mastery? Perhaps the most apparent impediment to learning through failure is how unpleasant it can be.

People typically like to think of themselves as competent, and experiencing failure challenges that self-image. In a poll after a replication of the rune research, individuals in the failure group revealed substantially lower levels of self-confidence after participating. It’s easy to disregard this agony as a momentary setback.

However, other studies have revealed that when individuals feel disheartened or inept, their brains typically cease absorbing new information. This shows that if a danger to your self-esteem is significant enough, it might hinder your capacity to learn. However, the allowance for failure also relies on your connection with the work at hand.

In a study from 2011, researchers assessed a sample of American students participating in basic and intermediate French classes. These children answered a questionnaire asking what sort of teacher they chose— one who emphasized their best qualities and triumphs, or one who underlined their errors and rectified their deficiencies.

In general, replies revealed that whereas starting students wanted positive reinforcement, advanced students were more eager for critical comments. Researchers have proposed a variety of causes for these outcomes.

Having just begun, beginners are still evaluating whether they love learning French and if they want to continue studying, so they may want praise as a method to remain motivated. On the other side, the advanced pupils have already engaged, therefore they may wish to increase their talents as efficiently as feasible.

The process of obtaining competence also comes with its fair share of failure, so the advanced pupils may have established a better tolerance for making errors. But whether you're an expert or a beginner, it’s typically a lot easier to learn from your triumphs than your mistakes.

For example, consider receiving your mark back on an exam. If you aced it, you may fairly think you made smart choices concerning when, what, and how much to study, and you can reproduce those selections for the next exam. But if you fail, it might be for a variety of reasons.

Maybe you weren't studying enough, maybe you studied the incorrect stuff, or maybe you did everything properly and the exam included topics you ought not to have been expected to know. In circumstances like these, it’s unknown what exactly went wrong, making it impossible to understand how to improve.

Wanting to learn from our setbacks is normal, and there’s plenty to gain by being persistent and fostering a development mentality. But fixating on your failures might make it easier to forget all your accomplishments. And building on what you’re doing correctly might be more helpful than concentrating on what you did wrong.

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Ndeloh Desmond

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